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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 5 months ago

Area bank has big ambitions for expansion into new community

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Crews Bank & Trust is planning a grand opening of its new branch in Sarasota on Jan. 2.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

After a busy 2019 that included unveiling a rebrand and revamping office space, Crews Bank & Trust is ready to open a new branch in Sarasota.

It’s planning a Jan. 2 grand opening of its branch at the prominent intersection of Main Street and Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota. It purchased the branch site, at 15 S. Palm Ave., the bottom of the 1350 Main condominium building, in fall 2018 for $1.45 million.

The new branch was originally expected to open in late summer or October 2019, but a decision to gut and reconfigure the space pushed back the timeline. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s just do it right,’” Crews Bank & Trust President Kevin Hagan says. “It took a little longer.”

Now that the physical space is nearly complete, the next challenge is to make sure the community knows it’s open for business — and to start to draw in new clients. “We can deliver on our service commitment day one,” Hagan says.

Crews Bank & Trust has a full staff hired for its Sarasota branch, including branch manager Christine Davis. Crews pulled in employees for the branch from within and outside the company. Offering existing employees the option to join the Sarasota team was important because it gave them an opportunity to move to the area and help build something new, Hagan says.

Regardless of whether the members of the Sarasota team came from inside or outside the company, Hagan says his team is committed to starting something from scratch. “We don’t think we’ll have many kinks to work out,” he says. “We’re getting good, experienced bankers in there.”

Downtown Sarasota is a new market for the bank that comes from well-established banking roots. The bank, established in 1973, is owned by holding company Crews Banking Corp., which also owns Wauchula State Bank, Charlotte State Bank & Trust and Englewood Bank & Trust. The company’s origins trace back to when J.W. Crews Sr. started Wauchula State Bank in 1929.

“A lot of people know the Crews name,” Hagan says, which will be an asset when starting to make a mark in Sarasota.

Prior to the bank’s rebrand, it was known as First State Bank of Arcadia. Part of the decision behind the rebrand to Crews Bank & Trust was to choose a name that didn’t limit the bank geographically. In addition to the downtown Sarasota branch, in DeSoto County it has a north Arcadia office, north Arcadia drive-thru and east Arcadia office. It also has a loan production office in Bradenton. “We’ve had great success up there,” Hagan says of the Manatee County/Bradenton office. The bank had $154.8 million in assets through Sept. 30, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data, up 9.2% year-over-year, from $141.7 million through Sept. 30, 2018.

To build the Sarasota branch, the next step is to get out into the marketplace, Hagan says, and talk to people in the community.  

On a recent Saturday night, for example, Crews Bank & Trust sponsored a table at a Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County event. It also participated in Wine Women & Shoes, a popular fundraiser that benefits Sarasota’s Forty Carrots Family Center. “It’s just getting our names out there and supporting the community,” Hagan says.

“We can deliver on our service commitment day one.” — Kevin Hagan, president, Crews Bank & Trust

For Hagan, the key is talking with people in centers of influence, such as attorneys and CPAs, and letting them know the bank is ready to open in Sarasota. In addition to the Jan. 2 grand opening, Crews Bank & Trust also plans to host opening events centered around different market segments.

Physically, the look of the Sarasota branch will be less traditional than an average bank. It’s an open-space concept with sit-down and stand-up teller stations and opportunities for customers to use technology, like tablets, themselves. Hagan, who has lived in Sarasota since 1976, says some old Sarasota flavor will also be incorporated into the branch’s design. “It’s a whole different feel,” Hagan says.

Hagan says it’s important for a bank to give customers a combination of technology and service. “You’ve got to be able to offer both sides,” he says. “Technology is getting better and better and better. It’s easier for smaller companies to compete.”

Opening a branch downtown, in the center of Sarasota activity, creates an important awareness factor, adds Hagan, who thinks there’s enough business to go around in the bank-heavy market. “We have a really good foothold to be able to compete aggressively.”

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